HC Deb 12 June 1967 vol 748 cc62-7
2. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest position in Aden.

22. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is to be his policy in the matter of the Eastern Aden Protectorate and its relationship with the Federation of South Arabia; and if he will make a statement.

24. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement about the future policy towards Aden.

54. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on Aden and on his discussions with the Federal Ministers.

56. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what further constitutional proposals he has for the South Arabian Federation and on what date he now expects Aden to achieve independence.

59. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on the present situation in Aden.

61. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement about the constitutional arrangements for Aden and South Arabia prior to independence in 1968.

Mr. George Brown

Sir Humphrey Trevelyan has now had time to settle in and has made a number of important reports which I am now considering. I will be in a position to fulfil my promise to the House to make a full statement of policy at the beginning of the debate planned for 19th June.

On internal security in Aden, although there has been no fundamental change I regret to say that in the last few days two British servicemen were killed and five were wounded, and one British civilian was killed and two were wounded.

The United Arab Republic/Israeli war, and the lie about British intervention broadcast by Cairo radio as an alibi for its defeat, has increased tension in Aden and there were some disturbances which, however, were contained without difficulty. As two of them were in the Eastern Aden Protectorate, elements of the Irish Guards have been flown there as a precaution.

Mr. Winnick

While appreciating that reply, and deploring the acts of violence which have taken place in Aden in the last few weeks, can my right hon. Friend say whether there is any chance of a change in the Federal structure and if our minds are open to that possibility? Secondly, is he optimistic that in the next few months there can be direct British negotiation with the main nationalist organizations—Flosy, obviously?

Mr. Brown

Both of these are the sorts of matters with which I want to deal in the very full policy statement which I intend to make next week.

Mr. Marten

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that President Nasser has said that he will continue the struggle towards victory, and would he, therefore, dissociate himself from the remark by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence that what is happening today in the Sinai Peninsula has no reference to our position in Aden? Could we not have the statement before the debate?

Mr. Brown

I have not heard of that remark, and the last thing that I would want to do is dissociate myself from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I am often asked to dissociate myself from other people, but I do not think that I would from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

On the general issue which the hon. Gentleman raises, perhaps he will be kind enough to wait until I make a full statement next week. I will fulfil my promise to the House to make a very full statement of policy at the opening of the debate, and then the House can proceed to debate it.

Mr. Stratton Mills

In the light of the events of last week, will the right hon. Gentleman give his assessment of whether or not, in his view, there is a danger of an external attack upon the South Arabian Federation after independence?

Mr. Brown

I do not think that I can answer that question just like that. One would have to assess much that is currently happening in the Middle East. One would have to be in a position to assess the events of the last few days. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is a wee bit early to do that. I might be in a better position to do so next week.

Mr. Fisher

Has the Foreign Secretary been able to make any progress in reconciling the very different aims and interests of the Arab traditionalists in South Arabia and the Arab nationalists in Aden, without which it will be very difficult for us to hand over to a united and powerful federation and without which we may be handing over to chaos?

Mr. Brown

I do not consider that we are handing over to chaos, but obviously there are difficulties here. That is why I decided to change the High Commissioner. That is why I asked the House to be allowed to have a little time to think about the changes to be made. Obviously one wants to hand over to a more viable and widely constituted Government, if one can bring it about, than the one there at the moment. By next week, I hope to be able to present to the House a wide range of proposals which I trust the House will think commend themselves to it.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Will the Foreign Secretary reconsider the timing of his statement? The House has been very patient. Could he not make it on Thursday or Friday, so that we might have it in our possession over the weekend and, thereby, make the debate that much more valuable?

Mr. Brown

When I was in Opposition, I always used to say that to the Government—[Interruption.] I never expected the Government in those days to respond; neither did they. However, there are other more serious reasons than that. In fulfilment of my pledge, I want to give the House a full statement. If I am to do that, I want to do it having taken into account all the various elements which make it up—political, security, external defence, and the rest. I shall not be in a position to do that until next week—

Mr. Sandys


Mr. Brown

I really think that the House as distinct from the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), will be better served if I open the debate next week with a full statement—[Interruption.] Since heads are being shaken and the right hon. Gentleman is jumping up and down, may I remind the Opposition Front Bench, slightly undermanned as it is at the moment—[Interruption.] I mean in terms of quality. May I remind them that the Leader of the Opposition called upon me, in terms which I can read out if necessary, to make my statement at the beginning of the debate. I shall do that.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Answers ought to be reasonably brief.

Mr. Sandys

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, leaving out all his cheap points which I do not propose to take up, whether he realises that nobody objects to his making his statement next Monday; that what we object to is the idea that we must have an immediate debate on this tremendously important issue? Surely he could arrange to have the debate on the Aden Bill postponed if he was not able to make the statement before Monday? Would not that be perfectly reasonable?

Mr. Brown

Certainly not, and I commend to the right hon. Gentleman the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that he expected me to open the debate with a full statement of policy. After all, that is what debates in the House are for. The idea that the Government must make their statements of policy earlier in order that the right hon. Gentleman is able to compose his speech at leisure later does not normally go along with the practice of the House.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The right hon. Gentleman need not worry about my speech. I can compose one very well, but it would be a much better speech, and so would all the speeches from both sides, if the right hon. Gentleman would concede that we should have the information before we debate this important question. My right hon. Friend was not talking about the debate on the Aden Bill. He was talking about a debate on Aden. The debate that we are to have next Monday is on the Aden Bill. Will the right hon. Gentleman try, through the usual channels, to see whether this can be arranged to the satisfaction of everybody?

Mr. Brown

Certainly not. The debate next Monday is on the Aden Bill, and the policy which the Government are going to operate is obviously relevant to the Bill and to the circumstances of it. The appropriate moment for announcing the wide area of policy is on the debate on the Bill which has relevance to it, and I will do it in full. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will have a perfect opportunity of discussing it. The purpose of the debate is to discuss Her Majesty's Government's policy, and that is what I will unfold next week.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Mr. Speaker, may we have a guarantee from you that when we come to discuss the Aden Bill we shall be able to debate the full scope of Her Majesty's Government's policy in every respect?

Mr. Speaker

I was asked that on Thursday. I must reserve my position. I shall decide what is in order when I see the shape of the debate.

12. Mr. Moyle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to strengthen the administration of the High Commission in Aden during the period before independence.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Thomson)

We have recently reinforced the High Commission in Aden by appointing now a number of Diplomatic Service officers who will remain to staff the British Embassy in Aden after independence.

Mr. Moyle

Has my right hon. Friend had time to consider strengthening the High Commission in the light of the events of last week, or does he still consider it strong enough to perform its functions on independence?

Mr. Thomson

We have recently sent a Foreign Office inspector to Aden to make a special report on the point mentioned by my hon. Friend—the need to strengthen the administration in the period up to independence. The principal recommendations of that report have already been carried out.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

What action is the Minister taking to protect the families of the members of the Administration up to independence, in addition to the action taken to protect Service families?

Mr. Thomson

The most careful precautions are taken to protect the families of members of the Administration in South Arabia.

Back to